Top lawyer disgraced

"I'm untouchable."… As Shoniker put it, there was "not a f-ing judge in this city that would grant an authorization" on his phone lines. And certainly no police officer would ever question the high- profile lawyer's business dealings.

The Toronto Star
August 19, 2006

Top lawyer disgraced
Once 'untouchable,' Peter Shoniker pleads guilty to money laundering
John Duncanson and Nick Pron

"I'm untouchable."

Peter Shoniker, a man who counts a general, police chiefs and judges among his friends, was sitting across from an undercover officer when he made that bold statement.

It was a boast he would repeat several times while telling the RCMP officer that he could move the man's stolen money without any chance of being caught.

If the undercover officer was convincing in his deception, Shoniker was equally good at selling the man on his ability to avoid detection from authorities - especially wiretaps.

As Shoniker put it, there was "not a f-ing judge in this city that would grant an authorization" on his phone lines.

And certainly no police officer would ever question the high- profile lawyer's business dealings.

"Not a cop in this country would dare burn me and question my integrity," Shoniker said during the course of several meetings with the undercover officer starting in May 2003.

A little over a year later, the once powerful and well-connected Conservative lawyer would find himself in a prisoner's box, charged with money laundering involving the illegal movement of $750,000 to a New York bank account and concealing its origins.

Although Shoniker vowed to fight the charges when he was arrested in June 2004, yesterday he admitted he was guilty of the crime of money laundering and stealing cash from the undercover RCMP officer.

According to an agreed statement of facts, it was former Crown attorney Calvin Barry who introduced the RCMP undercover agent to Shoniker, who was told the money had been skimmed from a union pension fund. Barry left the Crown's office four months after Shoniker's arrest and is now in private practice.

The Crown is calling for jail time for Shoniker while his lawyer, Edward Greenspan, is pushing for a conditional sentence or house arrest. Shoniker's fate will be decided Sept. 6 when he appears again before Associate Chief Justice Douglas Cunningham for sentencing.

The guilty plea by Shoniker is the first completed criminal case stemming from the RCMP-led investigation into possible corruption involving police and others that got underway more than five years ago.

In court, Shoniker was described by friends as "a broken man" since his arrest in June 2004, driven to commit white-collar crime with his mind clouded by alcohol and prescription pills, and further impaired by a severe sleeping disorder.

Even though he had fallen far, his powerful and influential friends were there yesterday to show their support as he uttered the words "guilty" to money laundering and theft at the University Ave. courthouse.

Former police chief Julian Fantino, who was assisted by Shoniker in his bid to become Toronto chief in 1999, was there the entire day, along with retired Major Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, another of Shoniker's good friends.

Before court, they gathered in the hall outside courtroom 4-8. Some hugged Shoniker, others shook his hand.

Inside court, after the guilty pleas, Greenspan read out letters from supporters and friends who said Shoniker had enriched their lives and made huge contributions to society. He was described as a hardworking man, dedicated to his friends and his legal career.

MacKenzie said in his letter to Judge Cunningham that Shoniker "is known to many of us as a kind, loving and loyal man with a lifetime of generous charitable acts."

Paul Godfrey, president and chief executive officer of the Toronto Blue Jays, said his "leadership was and still is admired and respected by all who have worked with him."

Godfrey remembers his passionate fight against child abuse in Canada and his "international support of the war on drugs."

Ironically, according to psychiatrist and friend Dr. Paul Fedoroff, it was prescription drugs and alcohol that "impaired his ability to think clearly." Fedoroff said Shoniker also suffered from lack of sleep and sometimes wouldn't sleep for days on end. Shoniker also told the Ottawa psychiatrist he was abused as a child by the Christian Brothers.

Crown attorney Jeffrey Manishen, however, laid out the case against Shoniker in a dry, matter-of-fact manner, painting the once untouchable Shoniker as a braggart, thief and liar who had broken not only the law but brought the justice system into disrepute.

"He seems to have a great capacity to lie," said Manishen, the special prosecutor assigned to the corruption prosecutions.

Shoniker's co-accused in the case, Babak (Bobby) Adeli Tabrizi, didn't show up in court yesterday and has been ordered to appear with Shoniker on Sept. 6.

Shoniker may not have been a household name, but in legal circles and corridors of power he was well known and was relied upon to get things done.

He was credited with spearheading the recruitment of Julian Fantino for the job as police chief of Toronto back in 1999.

But Shoniker had been a force on the legal scene even before he became a lawyer in 1985.

In 1983, as a law student, Shoniker organized a law symposium that included Mark McGuigan, then justice minister and attorney- general of Canada, Mr. Justice Charles Dubin, then Ontario attorney- general Roy McMurtry, and former Metro police chief Jack Ackroyd.

He kept close ties with the Conservative government then in power at Queen's Park and was always close to the police. Shoniker served as a special prosecutor for a Toronto police task force probing organized crime in the 1980s.

As a prosecutor, he had a vanity licence plate that read Jail4U.

In 1987, after leaving the Crown's office, he ended up in private practice and represented the Niagara Police Commission at a royal commission on police corruption that ran until 1990. He married in 1991.

He hosted former police chief William McCormack's retirement dinner in 1995. He defended such people as Newmarket Mayor Raymond Twinney and York Region police chief Bryan Cousineau, who were facing corruption charges. Cousineau pleaded guilty to breach of trust in 1998, while charges against Twinney were withdrawn in 1994.

Shoniker later moved to Bay St. where he was working as a lawyer and financial consultant.

Manishen didn't indicate yesterday what sentence he will ask for, but another Toronto lawyer - Simon Rosenfeld, 58 - was convicted last year of laundering $500,000 in phony cocaine profits and sentenced to three years in jail.

That case involved a RCMP sting operation. Rosenfeld, who was found guilty of two counts of money laundering and attempting to possess the proceeds of crime, has appealed his sentence. The court has not ruled on that motion yet.

Brought to you by

Risks: Theft, Humiliation, Money laundering, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, RCMP, Proceeds of crime, Breach of trust, Canada, 20060819 Top lawyer

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License